Fighting for an Inclusive and Vibrant Community

I love that in our district, you can still feel the diversity. Young families. Seniors.People with disabilities. LBGT. People of all colors walking dogs, even the occasional pig. Lots of small churches. Music and theater. Vegetable and flower gardens. The little free libraries in people’s front yards. I love that at our 2015 Juneteenth celebration, we had an excellent turnout of neighbors, children, seniors and merchants and musicians. What a time! South Berkeley was dancing in the street! Let’s do more of this.

Housing for Everyone, Yes In my BackYard

In the past several decades, we’ve seen striking transformation of many neighborhoods of Berkeley, but South Berkeley has not shared in that prosperity.

We have an opportunity to build new housing stock and revitalize the Adeline Corridor, supporting greater economic prosperity for small businesses and creating new job opportunities for our local residents, but we must do so without displacing long term residents or threatening the diversity and cultural history of the community. Yes, in my Backyard

I’m thrilled that, after 20 years of delays, we recently broke ground on Harper Crossing, in the heart of the Lorin District, which will provide 42 homes for low-income seniors. We’ve already started addressing the concern that the units need to offer a first consideration to people in the neighborhood and the city. Yes,in my Backyard

As chair of the Zoning Board, I helped bring to fruition the Ed Roberts Campus, this is a national and international model dedicated to disability rights and universal access. It’s been a wonderful addition to South Berkeley. Yes in my Backyard.

I support the development of the Ashby Bart station. It’s an opportunity location for new low-income, affordable, and the missing-middle income housing. And we can include a community center for youth, families, and seniors, with a space for our home-grown Shotgun Players theater, as well as small businesses to serve our residents. Yes In My Backyard.

There is major concern and questions here in our district, What happens to the home of our beloved Berkeley Flea Market where artisans, drummers, tourist and community gather on Saturdays & Sundays ? My answer to this question is to embrace the artisans and communities desire to keep the current home of The Berkeley Flea Market at the South Berkeley Bart location.To integrate the flea market into the design of the new housing development project supporting artisan and art. Our Berkeley Flea Market continues to live in it’s south Berkeley home of more than 30 years along with releasing the pressure of emergency affordable housing needed in our community. Yes In my Backyard.

We’ve got the bones for a vibrant neighborhood. Good public transit, including BART and buses. Bike lanes crisscrossing the district. In most places it’s easy to get around on foot, wheelchair, or bicycle.Yet our major corridor needs to improve to provide greater safety, biking easy and services to our residents with disabilities.

Back on the Beat

Crime continues to be a pressing concern for South Berkeley. Too many community members don’t feel safe in their own neighborhood.

Earlier this year, there were child abduction attempts near Malcolm X and Willard schools. In May 2016 there was a shooting less than a block from my home. There have been five shootings in South and West Berkeley in recent months.Many residents in the community feel criminal street gangs are responsible for a major part of this violence. Gang violence results in too many youth in our cities and communities left seriously wounded or dead. Crime prevention saves lives and increases safety where we live. We must establish goal is to target at-risk youth and to provide necessary services before youth turn to delinquency, and become involved with the criminal justice system. It is demonstrably more cost-effective and efficient to engage in prevention, and in intervention, than to wait until youth have begun to offend. South Berkeleyans deserve to live in a safe neighborhood.

The young civil rights leaders of this moment are speaking out--Black Lives Matter--. “Hands Up, Don’t Shot” -- “When We Die In Police Custody, Know That It Was Not A Suicide” -- Black Families Matter. We must acknowledge the Alameda County judicial, economic, social inequities. We have a responsibility here in Berkeley, as the city hallmark of diversity to address these issues and be held accountable for our civic decisions in addressing judicial, economic and social injustice locally.

I want to acknowledge the progress that the Berkeley Police Department has made on diversity, and on training more officers in crisis intervention. Yet there continues to be an uneasy relationship between communities of color and the police. We can do more. I support bringing back the beat cop, walking the streets. Police officers who walk a regular beat have a greater opportunity to build rapport and establish trust in the community. This safe street method is can also be an effective crime deterrent.

I believe in community policing.The Richmond Police has reduced crime by 30 percent over 10 years through a community policing approach, and some of their strategies can inform our work here in Berkeley. Their approach is to involve all the police officers in community policing — taking steps so officers get to know residents, participate in schools and other community events. They’ve also been retraining officers in communications skills, effectively interacting with people of different cultures. The force there is now 60 percent people of color, much closer to reflecting the community they serve.

When I was on the Zoning Adjustment Board in the early 2000s, we used zoning rules and community pressure to address growing crime and loitering along Sacramento Street. There were drug transactions going on openly on the street, and lots of calls to police. Through collaborative efforts from the community, Berkeley Police Department and the Zoning Adjustments Board one of the tools we used was to pull the business permits of some of the liquor stores and other businesses along that artery where the drug trafficking was going on. We cleaned that area up. It’s been good for the community and we must continue on this path.

Build More Housing Without Displacement

We can make our neighborhood safer, stronger, and more vibrant — with affordable and mixed-income housing around the Adeline Corridor, more small businesses and shops, designated bike paths and good lighting and beautification along the sidewalks.

Key to achieving this vision is to build housing for all income levels. We need housing for the missing middle, workers who earn minimum wage, teachers, firefighters, police officers, city employees, health care workers, contractors, and landscapers. Housing is a human right.

Hand in hand with development of affordable housing is minimizing home displacement — how do we grow our community without driving up prices so long-term residents can no longer afford to live here? We need to make sure we address displacement as we approach any new project — I support making inclusionary housing a requirement of every new development until significant progress is made. Another key is developing jobs and economic opportunities in our district and our city, so people can afford to live close to where they work.

I bring more than 24 years of overseeing Berkeley’s housing and commercial projects — as chair of the Housing Commission, chair of the Zoning Adjustment Board, and vice chair of the Planning Commission.

One project I worked on with the Zoning Board was the Sacramento Senior Homes at Blake and Sacramento, a good example of affordable housing and smart growth. All 39 units are for low-income seniors.

We also focused on the needs of the seniors in the building as well as neighbors by attracting Mo’ Joe Cafe, where, every day, there’s a mix of young families, students, and seniors enjoying the same space in community. I call that a housing development success.

I currently serve on the board of an exciting project in West Oakland, where we’re building approximately 45 units of housing for the working poor and formerly incarcerated. They even have a flourishing organic garden that sells produce to area businesses and employs low-income people from the neighborhood, including those with criminal records who have trouble getting jobs in traditional workplaces.


Focus on Solutions

Berkeley has so much to offer, but we can, and must, make it better — safer, more affordable, with a greater commitment to opportunities for everyone.

The Berkeley we love celebrates creativity, diversity, inclusion, food, community, and our enviable location on the east shore of San Francisco Bay. I promise to build on the best of Berkeley by fighting for affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, and a clean and vibrant economy.

Build More Affordable Housing

Berkeley is making huge strides in building new housing downtown and along transit corridors, with dozens of new housing projects under construction or moving through the approval process.

But we still aren’t keeping pace with our growth in population, or with the need for affordable housing. Rents have been climbing more than 10 percent a year, and housing prices even more.

Between 2010 and 2015, Berkeley’s population grew 5.5 percent, the housing supply 1.2 percent.

We’re experiencing a rare moment in Berkeley politics — everyone agrees we need more affordable housing. The issue is how and where.

I support the broad focus of the city’s Housing Action Plan, specifically ways to make it less expensive to add “in-law units” and to create incentives for landlords who rent to Section-8 tenants.

Current housing policy would increase the percentage of affordable units in new projects from 10 percent to 20 percent, or allow developers to pay a mitigation fee of $34,000 into the Housing Trust Fund. I support increasing that percentage of affordable housing to 30 percent citywide over the next 10 to 15 years and requiring affordable housing in every new development. That’s ambitious, but possible.

Through my commission service, I’ve helped support many new small business,non profits, as well as major developments like the Mabel Howard Senior Center, West Berkeley Bowl, The Higby Housing Building, Parker Place Housing, Margaret Breland Housing, Inter City Employment & Training Inc., Mi Ranchito Market, Mignon’s Furniture, Cafe Trieste, and more.

Stop Crimes Against Women

It’s unacceptable that women are being sexually assaulted on and near the U.C. campus. I will bring a strong voice for keeping our young women safe.

It’s not just the campus where we need to make improvements. In our district, in our city, we have unacceptable levels of domestic violence. When you look at mothers with children in abusive situations, there are not enough resources to meet the need.

We need to pay more attention to human trafficking issues as well. Young girls who have few options are being picked up and forced to perform sexual acts. (As Los Angeles County Judge Catherine Pratt said, “Let’s be perfectly clear. They are victims. There is simply no such thing as a child prostitute.”)

We need to do more direct outreach, and work more closely with Alameda County’s HEAT (Human Exploitation and Trafficking) Unit, a leading organization in tackling human trafficking.

Address the Homeless Community with Compassion

I’m encouraged by the new approach in how cities are addressing homelessness, with a focus on providing housing first, instead of making the housing dependent on work training or getting treatment for mental health issues. Too often, homeless people have to “earn” their way into housing, a daunting task when it’s so hard to make progress on mental health or addiction or employment issues without stable housing.

But such an approach falls short when affordable housing is so scarce. While it’s promising that policymakers are embracing the idea of “housing first,” there are fewer affordable housing units than ever before.

I have also recently reached out to Lava Mae, a San Francisco–based nonprofit that repurposes buses into showers and toilets for the homeless. It doesn’t address the need for housing, but it gives dignity as well as hygiene. I also just learned there’s a barber giving free haircuts to the homeless who are waiting in line for their shower.

For 30 years, I have been feeding the homeless, from my own kitchen. I started doing it when my daughter was small. I do it three or four times a year, when I have the time and I feel the spirit leading me. I spend the entire day preparing a meal to feed 30 to 40 people, and then I take to a park where I know there are people who are hungry.

I take special care that the meals taste good and have inviting presentation. The highest compliment I’ve ever received is when someone told me, “I can taste the love.”

Paid for by Deborah Matthews 2016 for Berkeley City Council D-3 | FPPC ID # 1383330